Professor Jane Lightfoot

Professor Jane Lightfoot FBA

Professor of Greek Literature, University of Oxford


Jane L. Lightfoot came to St John’s as an undergraduate to read Classics in 1988, and began her doctorate there. She migrated via St Hugh’s to All Souls, where she held a Prize Fellowship followed by a Post-Doctoral Fellowship, before joining New College as Charlton Fellow and Tutor in Classical Languages and Literature. She became Professor of Greek Literature in 2014, and was elected Fellow of the British Academy in 2018.

Rather than specifying an area of interest, Professor Lightfoot likes to think of herself as an archaeologist or maybe an anatomist of ancient literature. Having been so well trained in the central texts of the curriculum as an undergraduate, but also inspired by tutors to explore the fringes, she has made it her contribution to rediscover some of the enormous amount of Greek literature that remains largely unread or under-explored: this means developing an instinct for where to strike out, and then patiently exploring tradition, transmission, linguistic, literary, and intellectual contexts. Following these principles she has published books on ancient mythography, ethnography, oracles, geography, and astrology; her latest book, on the last of these (an extraordinarily under-exploited source for popular morality, attitudes, and mentalities), is due to be published in November 2020 with OUP, and her sights are set next on the revival of Hippocratic writing in early imperial medical literature.